Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bonfires On Lighthall Street

I was actually nicknamed Gina Bug when I was growing up, probably because bugs just always fascinated me. Maybe when I was around ten or eleven I went through a slightly different phase and though it was rather short lived, firebug would have been more of an apt description for me.

Our neighbors directly across the street had a long brown picket fence that bordered their driveway. They had a neat hedge of fragrant Lantana growing along the opposite side next to their house. I loved to catch these small golden butterflies that lit among the soft pastel petals. My friend Michael lived next door to them with his younger sister and brother. I remember his father would come home from work, dirty with white paint spatters all over his clothes. Even though he looked tired, he appeared genuinely happy, radiating warmth through his eyes and smile. His mom on the other hand, well you would of thought I had a picture of her buried away in some drawer? She was pleasant enough with an easy going smile under a head of wild blond hair. I can remember her standing at the doorway when she came to greet me… speaking in a loud gravely voice, either out of the side while balancing a lit cigarette between her lips or fingers- every one of her nails chewed to the nub. When she hollered for her kids, it was the most amazing guttural screech I'd ever heard!

Occasionally I'd overhear the grownups remark that their dad was a hard worker but the mom was the one who liked to hit the bars. My older sisters would occasionally baby sit, only I gathered my parents really didn't appreciate me going over there to play too much. Maybe that was partly because my dad liked to refer to my visits as me “leaking out of the house”? Somehow though, it must have been difficult keeping me in on our little cul-de-sac on Saturdays. As for Sunday, church just took a big fat chunk out of the day and somehow they always managed to extract a little more out of it when we got home as if there was something extra solemn about a darn Sunday!

Now it wasn't too hard for me to get a hold of a small candle or two but it certainly helped that his parents were smokers, so he took care of the matches. All these fires started out pretty tame by the way but the trouble was, most of them were in vacant lots! Well, everything was going pretty swell, except for one day after school. There was a man we called old Mr. Hobbs who had one hand missing due to a work related injury. He lived at the very end of the road with a really super long paved driveway. When he sold the house, a family with a young girl my age moved in for a spell and we used love to roller skate up and down it. Anyway, to our delight, right next to his property was a small vacant lot. Growing in between the few trees where we could remain inconspicuous was over grown brownish grass..a lot of it! A neighbor kid who lived straight across would occasionally join us along with Michael’s younger siblings who’d always tagged along.

Honestly, I can’t tell you exactly what we thought… but you can bet it had something to do with the element of danger for sure?

Bonfire…Wikipidia says- not to be confused with campfire-(Lol)..A bonfire is a large controlled (did you catch that) outdoor fire. The word is a contraction of "bone fire". The practice is believed to derive from the Celtic festival of Samhain when animal bones were burnt to ward off evil spirits. I'm amused.

All right, after we lit the matches and got our marvelous little bone fire going, it began to spread rather quickly. Our eyes became huge as the fire began to rage out of control. We panicked, racing around trying to stomp it out, but before we knew it, Mr. Hobb's neighbor appeared out of nowhere and silently helped us put it out. Funny, he was a Psychologist and to my relief, he never told our parents. I often wondered whether it was because he knew his son had been participating?

That family was pretty loose too, according to my standards? One day I went up to visit them early before they’d finished breakfast. His sister was sitting there at the table drinking a large glass of Nestles chocolate milk with the biggest wad of pink chewing gum I’d ever seen stuck next to her bowl of Sugar Frosted Flakes! For some reason, the occasional cat deposits I'd come across in Michael’s living room, paled in comparison to this!

There were two more incidents I recall which pretty much snuffed out if you will, any euphoric feelings I had for igniting these blazes..though I wasn't able to partake in either? The first was old Mr. Hobbs garage; mysteriously, it caught fire and burned to a crisp.

The last one though was certainly more daring than disastrous, only because it was a large field adjacent to the house across from us. For some reason, I'd always been left with a feeling I was being punished that day? Anyway, I heard the fire trucks rumbling down our road and came running from the back of our house. Interestingly, any damage that fire caused was completely overshadowed by the most memorable part I have of all. Peering out of our living room window, my eyes had become instantly fastened on Michael. He had positioned himself on that brown picket fence, his legs crossed mind you-with his chin resting on his hand looking amazingly casual!!

Sadly, his parents divorced and moved on with his father gaining custody of all three of them. His Father eventually remarried and dropped by so he could introduce us to his new wife and her five children. They all looked really happy too. Anyway, that was the last time I’d ever seen them.

1 comment:

sojourner said...

Yep! i agree "firebug" is much more appropriate for that phase of your life. Good that you outgrew it! I enjoyed reading about your past :0)

Let's be perfectly clear- the war on free speech is spiritual!